Bloomberg Tax
Oct. 31, 2021, 2:00 PMUpdated: Nov. 1, 2021, 4:55 PM

Week In Insights: Avoiding the Nightmare of Tax Uncertainty (1)

Kelly Phillips Erb
Kelly Phillips Erb

A quarter of a millennium ago, a well-dressed person knocking on doors in the Philadelphia area at this time of year was likely looking to collect taxes.

But this weekend, fancily-dressed folks standing on a doorstep are likely just hoping for candy.

Trick-or-treating on Halloween has been a tradition in the U.S. for more than a century—even though it didn’t begin here. Some believe that trick-or-treating got its start in the Middle Ages because of All Souls’ Day. As part of the celebration, the poor would visit the homes of the wealthy, and in exchange for a promise to pray for the souls of dead relatives, they would receive pastries called soul cakes. Eventually, children took up the practice, going from door to door to ask for gifts. Rather than promising to pray, the children would tell a joke or perform a “trick” before collecting a treat.

Others believe that the holiday marks the date that ghosts come back from the dead. To avoid being recognized by the spirits, people donned masks and costumes when they left their homes. They would also place bowls of food outside of their homes to keep the ghosts happy, and convince them not to enter.

No matter the exact origin, the custom of trick or treating made its way over to the United States as Europeans immigrated over. Unfortunately, it lost steam in the early 20th century: By the Great Depression, outings were marked by vandalism and violence, and rationing made handing out treats difficult during World War II. But in the post-war era, trick-or-treating became synonymous with American childhoods. And in 1951, Charles Schulz cemented the popularity of the day when he drew three “Peanuts” comic strips featuring his famous characters in costume—a tradition that he continued throughout the years.

Children go trick or treating on Halloween night in Monterey Park, California, on October 31, 2019.
Photographer: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

Today, consumer spending on Halloween is expected to reach an all-time high of $10.14 billion—up more than 25% from 2020, according to the National Retail Federation. About a third—or $3 billion—will be spent on candy, as the number of folks hoping to hand out treats this year is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels. Halloween is now considered the second biggest retail event of the year—after Christmas, of course.

In addition to trick-or-treating, the holiday is marked by ghostly costumes, terrifying movies, and eerie decorations. The goal: creating fear and excitement.

Of course, nothing is scarier than not knowing what comes next. That anticipation? That’s what creates the memorable moments in everything from horror films to haunted houses. The key to not being scared? Staying a step ahead of the danger. The same thing is true in tax: It’s a constant challenge to keep on top of everything you need to know. Fortunately, this week, as always, our experts have the latest federal, state, and international tax analysis to keep you up to date.

The Exchange… It’s where great ideas intersect.

—Kelly Phillips Erb

Quick Numbers Trivia

For sales tax purposes, states that have adopted the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, or SSUTA, define candy as: “a preparation of sugar, honey, or other natural or artificial sweeteners in combination with chocolate, fruits, nuts or other ingredients or flavorings in the form of bars, drops, or pieces.” Additionally, candy “shall not include any preparation containing flour and shall require no refrigeration.” That means, for example, that Twix bars and KitKats wouldn’t be considered candy for sales tax purposes.

How many states have adopted the SSUTA in full or in part?
(Answer at the bottom.)

Our Roundup

This week, our experts touched on a wide range of topics, from cryptocurrency to state updates. For a look at what’s making news, here’s our roundup:

It’s easy to be rattled by what we don’t know. Despite several proposals, there is no clear requirement to report sales of cryptocurrency on Forms 1099. In Cryptocurrency and Other Digital Assets Reporting Still on Hold, Debbie Pflieger, a Principal in EY’s Financial Services Organization, discusses the need to provide clarity for investors and tax authorities.

Patching pieces together often results in a monster—just ask Dr. Frankenstein. The same is true for tax policy. In U.K. Budget 2021—Some Cause for Optimism, Paul Falvey of BDO reviews the measures in the U.K. autumn budget 2021, commenting that there is some cause for optimism, but that ultimately a rethink of the tax system is needed.

An installation of 3,000 candle-lit pumpkins blanket the canal side steps at Granary Square on October 31, 2014, in London.
Photographer: Rob Stothard via Getty Images

A chill wind could mean trouble is coming—or it may just mean that it’s finally autumn. In Massachusetts State and Local Tax Update: Fall 2021, Philip Olsen of Davis Malm delivers a regular wrap-up of what you need to know this fall. He summarizes recent tax developments in Massachusetts, including the proposed digital advertising tax, the state’s brownfields tax credit, sales and use tax, room occupancy tax, and the return to pre-pandemic individual income sourcing rules.

Governments often offer financial incentives to try and bring back areas from the dead. As part of the government’s plan to establish several freeports, the U.K. tax authority has recently issued guidance for businesses operating in a freeport site. In U.K. Freeports—Will They Benefit Business?, Ian Worth of Crowe UK looks at the background to this initiative, the potential benefits, and the challenges going forward.

In many horror films, we’re on the edge of our seats, fearing that there’s no escape. The provisions of a recent Vietnamese government decree on tax incentives are intended to remove some of the obstacles to eligibility for businesses engaged in the manufacture of prioritized supporting industry products. In Vietnam’s New Policy on Tax Incentives for ‘Supporting Industries’, Valerie Teo and Nguyen Tan Tai of Grant Thornton Vietnam explain the new measures.

Whether dashing through a haunted house or sitting through a scary movie, the goal is to survive. And in Part 3 of a series from CMS, “Business Restructuring—How to Get Out Alive?” Annabelle Bailleul-Mirabaud and Julie Vergnes of CMS France discuss the tax issues relating to permanent establishment in international business restructuring. In Part 2, Angelika Thies, Xavier Daluzeau, and Julie Vergnes consider transfer pricing issues and reporting requirements arising from the restructuring of a multinational group, and outline how taxpayers need to prepare for scrutiny by the tax authorities. In Part 1, Stéphane Gelin discussed tax losses and how tax policy can help with recovery after a global crisis, including a look at measures in various European countries.

Opinion and Commentary

Some believe that Congress is looking to take a bite out of billionaires. As part of the Democrats’ latest effort to find a way to extract more revenue from America’s wealthiest, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon has proposed taxing them annually on assets they haven’t sold. It’s a complex plan bound to hit legal roadblocks and create logistical headaches, says Alexis Leondis in How Democrats Can Tax Billionaires the Right Way.

Wildfires, cracked earth, and mega-storms aren’t just the stuff of horror films: It’s happening in some parts of the world. In The Global Minimum Tax in a Time of Climate Crisis, Brigitte Alepin of the University of Quebec, Lyne Latulippe of the University of Sherbrooke, and Louise Otis as the President of the Administrative Tribunal of the OECD, lay out the case for negotiating an agreement that correlates the minimum tax with climate change. A formal agreement on global tax was reached at a Group of 20 summit in Rome.

Columnists & Contributors

Tax debts can be like zombies: Impossible to get rid of. Since getting married can have a big impact on your finances—and your tax bill—be proactive now. When ‘I Do’ Becomes ‘Tax Due': Marital Tax Debts suggests you take steps now to arm yourself with the information that you need to make good choices.


Our Spotlight series highlights the careers and lives of tax professionals across the globe. This week’s spotlight is on Enrolled Agent Kristen Howze who lives and works in Europe.

Listen In

Are cable TV subscriptions dying a slow death? The growth of “cord cutters” has had an unintended consequence for local governments as revenue from the right-of-way taxes imposed on the cable companies is shrinking. Some municipalities are hoping to replace that revenue with taxes on streaming services like Netflix. In this week’s episode of Talking Tax, Bloomberg Tax correspondent Michael Bologna speaks with an excise tax specialist and a communications law attorney and finds they have very different views on whether imposing local taxes on streamers is a legitimate way to increase the public coffers.

A general view of the Halloween display is seen at The Old Bury, the oldest house in Stevenage, England, which has been given a modern Halloween-style makeover by Samsung on Oct. 13, 2020.
Photographer: Handout/Handout via Getty Images for The Old Bury

Fancing working in Amityville? Or on Elm Street? PwC announced it’s allowing its employees the option to work from anywhere in the U.S., joining companies like Facebook—recently rebranded as Meta—and Allstate in shifting to remote models to attract and retain top talent. But what are the long-term impacts of such a move for employees and employers? In this week’s episode of the Taxgirl podcast, Bloomberg’s Kelly Phillips Erb is joined by Nishant Mittal, SVP and GM of Topia’s Business Travel solution, to chat about what the work-from-anywhere shift will mean.

Chime In

From hacks to best practices, I love hearing what my fellow tax professionals have to say about how they achieve success. So, we’ve instituted a Friday networking minute to hear what you have to say about life in the profession.

Last week, I asked:

There’s a lot of hiring happening right now. When you interview for credentialed or similar positions, what kinds of soft skills are you looking for?

San Diego-based CPA Diane Gilabert says that she focuses on “Attitude. Are they willing to do what it takes even if it’s “not their job”?”

Donna Laubscher, an Arizona-based CPA, wants to know, “Do they exhibit active listening skills? Can we engage with them? Get some sort of a connection in any area? If so, then we are willing to give it a go.”

And Julie Ravenscraft, a Clinical Assistant Professor at Arizona State University and CPA, says, “I teach these skills to undergraduate accounting majors. I typically focus on professional introductions for networking opportunities and interviews, written communication skills memos/letters, and presentation skills. I would love to hear what others value the most.”

Here’s this week’s question:

What’s your favorite productivity app?

You can leave your answer on social media or email your answer to (subject line “Chime In”). Be sure to include your name, company, and title. I’ll assemble some of the best responses and include them in a future edition of the newsletter.

Exclusive Content for Bloomberg Tax Subscribers

Not knowing what’s happening with reconciliation (H.R.5376) can be scary. To stay up to date, check out our Bloomberg Tax and Accounting watch page, which brings together resources on related tax provisions, including the latest news from our team of reporters on Capitol Hill, links to key documents, and our growing body of analysis.
*Note: Your Bloomberg Tax login will be required to access the watch page.

Quick Numbers Answer

There are 24.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Kelly Phillips Erb in Washington at

(Added link to recent global tax agreement.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Kelly Phillips Erb in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at; Meg Shreve at